First-years perhaps not so IT-literate

There is a tendency for many of us to assume that every new cohort of students is even more IT-savvy than the last (and significantly ahead of almost all staff) and that we therefore need to offer them just about everything online and loads of exciting kit to play with too. But maybe first years aren’t quite as IT-literate as we thought they were:

It pays to look at some sound evidence, though, and put these rosy speculations to the test. One such examination came out a year ago, conducted by Educational Testing Service. The Chronicle write-up is here. The study had 6,300 students take a 75-minute test that asked them to complete 15 Web-based research tasks, the kind of things they have to do in college courses, such as determining bias in Web sites and finding relevant Web pages.


The report concluded: “Few test takers demonstrated key ICT literacy skills” Only 35 percent of the subjects could narrow an overly broad search properly, and only 40 percent of them chose the right terms to tailor a search effectively. In constructing a slide presentation, only 12 percent of them stuck to relevant information.

So maybe we shouldn’t make too many assumptions about students’ IT expertise.